Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 182518984
Assessing post-hurricane status and hybridization threat in the last remaining Iguana delicatissima stronghold
Dominica, located within the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean region, is the last island larger than 2 km squared that contains a healthy, stable population of the Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima). Due to habitat loss and the incursion of invasive species, particularly the Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), this regionally endemic species was reclassed as Critically Endangered in 2018.
In September 2017, Dominica experienced the strongest hurricane in its recorded history: category 5 Hurricane Maria. This hurricane caused direct iguana mortality, habitat degredation and habitat loss, increased poaching by both locals and foreign aid workers, and introduced several invasive species including the notorious Common Green Iguana. The invasive iguana is known to rapidly replace the native Lesser Antillean Iguana due to their higher reproductive rate, larger clutch size, bigger body size, and hybridisation with the native Lesser Antillean Iguana outcompeting them for mates. Therefore, creating an iguana conservation managment program in Dominica is critical for the long-term survival of the Lesser Antillean Iguana, especially as stronger, more frequent storms are predicted for the Caribbean region.
Through this program, we aim to assess the population health of the Lesser Antillean Iguana by surveying pre-hurricane communal nesting sites, assessing pre- and post-hurricane road mortality, and by conducting iguana surveys in the areas where invasive iguanas were found. As iguana work has not occured on Dominica in almost 10 years, a major component of this project is to build local capacity for iguana monitoring and managment to serve as a sentinel for future invasions and storms. This project also aims to launch an outreach campaign to reduce anthropogenic threats on the native iguana and educate Dominicans on the importance of protecting the island's unique biodiversity. Key government stakeholders will be engaged to create an invasive species action plan to management current invasive species and increase biosecurity on island to reduce further incursions.
Project 182518984 location - Dominica, North America